If you are familiar with the Epistles in the Bible you have probably begun to take Paul’s greeting to the Philippians for granted. They are simply the standard greeting he uses in all of his letters. The standard letter in Paul’s day included a “from” line. It identified the writers of the letter. In this case, it was Paul and Timothy. It then proceeded to note the recipients of the letter; in this case, it was the assembly of believers in Philippi, along with their elders and deacons. The usual opening then contained a greeting. Sometimes the greeting was “greetings.” That’s what many of the emperors used when they wrote letters to various cities around their empire. Paul’s greeting is found in verse 2, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “grace” translates the Greek word “Cherein.” It comes from the same root word that Paul’s word for “grace” comes from. But, as Boice observes, “At the same time, however, it is important to note that the words are transformed in Paul’s hands so that they carry Christian meanings. The normal gentile greeting in Greek was a verb, but Paul uses the noun form of the same root, Charis. The difference is slight, but there is a great change in meaning.”

Paul is referring to God’s unmerited favor. He’s reminding his readers that the greeting, although coming from Paul and Timothy, is from God the Father through Jesus Christ. It’s more than just saying, “I greet you.” It’s pronouncing a divine blessing upon the recipients of his letter. God’s grace is the source of our forgiveness. It’s the source of our joy. God’s grace is the basis of our salvation and the assurance of our present happiness and future deliverance from the struggles in this sinful world. It’s the solid basis of God’s love for us. He does not love us because we are such loveable people. He loves us because of His grace. We do not deserve it. We cannot earn it. It is a gift from God through Jesus Christ. Paul has taken the root of the standard Gentile greeting and added to it the depth of God’s unmerited favor to all who come to God through faith in Jesus.

The next part of the greeting in the letter to the Philippians is “peace to you.” The standard Hebrew greeting then and now is the same: shalom. This is the word for peace. Throughout the New Testament, we see the war that takes place between Gentile and Jewish believers. Much of the persecution that Christ experienced and that followed Paul from city to city had its roots in the Jewish religious community. As Paul wrote this letter, he was imprisoned in Rome because of the accusations brought against him by the Jewish community. Paul is bringing the two greetings together. Because of God’s wonderful grace, all men, Jew and Gentile, can experience the peace of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ. As we read further in chapter 1 of the book of Philippians, we’ll see that real joy is found in the “peace” that Christ established on the cross for all mankind based on his grace. He wrote to the Galatians that based on the grace that brings peace with God, we also have the joy of peace with each other. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)